Clean Sweep: Robins trucks keep streets, flight line debris-free
By Jenny Gordon, Robins Public Affairs
/ Published November 27, 2013
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A lone pebble, inconspicuous to the casual observer, doesn't realize on its own it has no business existing several hundred feet away from a major weapons system on the Robins flight line.
Five days a week, one of 12 "street sweepers" from the 78th Civil Engineer Group take a turn on a Tymco truck, equipped with enough power to suck up anything directly in its path.
Jerome Bryant, who has been sweeping not only on the flight line but across base for more than 10 years, has pretty much seen it all. He has worked at Robins since 1976.
"I love making sure it's clean out here for the airplanes and being able to contribute," he said.
Leaves that have blown in from trees a mile away end up on the flight line. Slivers of paper. Pine straw. Used tobacco. Anything that doesn't belong.
It all either gets vacuumed into a large collection bin at the back of the truck, swept inside through what looks like two large, circular gutter brooms, or stuck under a horizontal magnet attached to the truck's front. The magnet picks up metal pieces that can sometimes be left behind.
Even a tiny rock can pose a very serious threat if caught inside the engine of a C-5, C-17, C-130 or F-15. Only one other person can sit inside the sweeper truck. A steering wheel is also located on the passenger side, convenient for use in areas where curbs and gutters are on the right side.
Bryant and his colleagues make a clean sweep of the entire flight line and runway, following a dedicated schedule throughout the work week. Once they check in at base ops in Bldg. 110, they stay in constant communication with one another ensuring the day's work runs smoothly.
The Macon native takes it upon himself to pay close attention to aircraft getting ready to take off. Once they leave their designated parking spot, the truck's engine immediately accelerates. He heads over for a look.
With the flip of a switch from a nearby control panel, a vacuum comes to life under the truck. It's not too loud. Sometimes Bryant will sweep for a few rocks in the area, other times the pavement is clean.
Slowly, he will turn his truck and drive in a large circle on one patch of ground. He will repeat this movement; circling in smaller areas until he's satisfied no foreign objects remain.
He gives a loud laugh when asked if he dreams of driving in concentric circles or spotting tiny pebbles or grains of sand at a distance. Does he ever get dizzy?
"Nah, I'm used to it by now," the 64-year-old said. "The only time I think about it is when I'm on my way to work in the morning."
He isn't sure what his vision is, but on observation, he can spot an object that doesn't belong from his high perch on the truck.
It helps too when the sun shines at just the right angle on a stretch of pavement. Anything dark or oddly shaped popping up gets a second glance.
It's a job Bryant takes seriously. Always on watch. Driving around from one side of the base to the other. Quickly turning a wheel to sweep an area that just minutes earlier was occupied by a C-130.
He is familiar with just about every slab of pavement a plane has sat on at Robins.
It's just another day on the job.
"One day I might be doing this, or concrete work or construction," he said. "I like it out here. You can always be in a different place."